“Ash and Pia move from hipster Brooklyn to rustic Vermont in search of a more authentic life. But just months after settling in, the forecast of a superstorm disrupts their dream. Fear of an impending disaster splits their tight-knit community and exposes the cracks in their marriage. Where Isole was once a place of old farm families, rednecks and transplants, it now divides into paranoid preppers, religious fanatics and government tools, each at odds about what course to take.
We Are Unprepared is an emotional journey, a terrifying glimpse into the human costs of our changing earth and, ultimately, a cautionary tale of survival and the human spirit.”
My Thoughts: There seems to be a general trend these days where a book’s synopsis leads you to believe the story is about one thing only to discover that it is actually about something else once you read it. This then leads to feelings of disappointment and distrust; after all, if you can no longer trust the synopsis then how are you supposed to decide whether you want to read a book? This does not mean that the story itself is bad; it does mean that it takes a fantastic story to overcome that feeling of being mislead. Unfortunately, Meg Little Reilly’s We Are Unprepared is another example of a story that deviates from what you are lead to believe by the synopsis, and it does not have the power to overcome the disappointment that results.
What We Are Unprepared is not is a novel about climate change and the life-altering storms resulting from the changing earth. In fact, the Storm is merely a backdrop to the character interplay and self-discovery journey on which Ash unexpectedly finds himself. It happens but is delegated to one chapter while the rest of the book occurs during the build-up to the Storm and its aftermath. Given how much the characters talk about and fear the Storm, to have it relegated to one single scene is to diminish its impact and the lessons to be learned about the impact of climate change.
What We Are Unprepared actually is then is a novel about change and how people adapt to that change. It is about the true selves that come to light in adversity and the cracks in relationships that can either widen or callous over in times of great stress. It is about adaptation and its various forms. It is about one man’s realization that what he thought he wanted was not what he actually needed.
The truly disappointing aspect of We Are Unprepared is the fact that the impact of the Storm and the implications of its existence at all should mean the ending is fairly bleak. After all, this superstorm struck the entire eastern seaboard and changed the geography of it forever; plus, this storm should be just the beginning of adverse weather conditions the likes of which humans have never seen thanks to the unknown effects of climate change. Even more, regardless if the superstorm was an afterthought, real life would dictate a pyrrhic ending of some sort. Life-altering climate change and happy endings usually do not go hand-in-hand. Yet, the story ends on a much more happy-go-lucky note, with happy endings or at least satisfactory ones all around. It is almost as if Ms. Reilly could not bear to hit her readers with any gut-wrenching truths and therefore softened her message and made sure her characters received their own happily ever after.
We Are Unprepared had the potential to be a profound statement about change of all sorts, the need to be prepared, and the soul-searching required to weather through it. However, instead readers get a story where everything ends up being pretty okay in spite of the life-altering changes that have occurred to the characters and to the world. It is not necessarily a bad story; after all, we read to escape real life and novels with happy endings serve that purpose. It just is not as hard-hitting as expected or wanted, and therein lies the greatest source of disappointment a reader will have upon finishing it.